Professional Rock Climber Paige Claassen Shares Her Best Advice for New Climbers

We’ve heard this before but we are going to say it again: You are responsible for your own success.

For professional rock climber, Paige Claassen, rock climbing proves that when you work really hard and you put your whole heart into it, you get to reap great benefits from your efforts.

Let’s take a good look at Paige’s best advice for new climbers, her favorite climbing shoes, and more!

Rock Climber Paige Claassen

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Paige Claassen. I’m a professional rock climber and Founder and Executive Director of Southern Africa Education Fund, a nonprofit providing kids with the education necessary to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. I am from Estes Park, Colorado. My husband and I are living in South Africa, where is he from. Eventually, we’ll split our time between South Africa and Colorado.

My favorite activities include rock climbing outside with friends, cooking with my husband, and traveling to new places.

How and why did you get into climbing?

I began climbing when I was 9 years old. My family had moved to Estes Park and I was super shy. I tried a whole bunch of activities and sports and was pretty awful at all of them. My parents took me to the climbing gym and it just clicked. I loved it, felt at home, and wasn’t afraid. Climbing helped me build confidence during a very formative time of my life.

No one influenced me at that time as I wasn’t super fixated on heroes in the early years. I just loved the sport because I could play in the gym for hours and notice big gains based on the hard work I put in.

Rock Climber Paige Claassen

Why is climbing important for you?

Climbing taught me a strong sense of work ethic at a young age. It’s a very individual sport, so you’re responsible for your success or failure. Hard work pays off, and that stuck with me through climbing, school, university, and launching a nonprofit organization.

There are so many reasons why it’s important to get outside, but two important to me are to learn how to respect and preserve our natural world, and to learn about places we might not otherwise visit. Climbing outside can take us to some unusual destinations off the beaten track, and there’s so much to learn about our surroundings.

What has been the best parts of your climbs?

Meeting other climbers from all over the world along the way. Climbing is growing, but it’s a small community so you get to see the same people over and over in different places around the world. I met my husband through climbing!

What has been the most difficult parts?

Sport climbing is pretty safe, as long as you’re paying attention and using your equipment properly. I climb with people I enjoy being around, so that we can provide one another with support and motivation throughout the journey.

Rock Climber Paige Claassen

What is your best advice for new climbers?

I always teach new climbers to focus on footwork and technique, not strength. Find a motivated partner, learn the proper safety techniques (perhaps by taking a class in your local gym), and start on something in your comfort range. Then slowly push yourself as you gain confidence in your skills.

How do you prepare for your climbs/competitions?

I find that climbing is the best training for climbing. I also hang board, do pushups and core work, and lift weights occasionally, but some of these tools are best saved for years down the road, after you’ve been climbing for a long time.

Eat what your body needs, don’t starve yourself. I don’t restrict anything in my diet, and I find that helps me climb my best and stay healthy.

How do you finance your climbs?

I work with La Sportiva, CAMP USA, and Maxim Ropes as a brand ambassador. I run a nonprofit, Southern Africa Education Fund, which supports educational projects in South Africa and Namibia. We renovate schools, develop curriculum, help teachers access training, and help eliminate many of the obstacles families face in sending their children to school.

Rock Climber Paige Claassen

How do you balance personal life with climbing?

When I’m climbing, I focus 100% of my energy on climbing, and when I’m working, I focus 100% on my work. I try to be efficient and make the most of my time, so that I still have time to spend with my friends and family. It helps that my husband is a climber and many of my friends, so often we can share these experiences together.

What great opportunities were opened since you started climbing?

Climbing led me to the most important milestones in my life. I’ve met most of my dearest friends through climbing, I met my husband through climbing, and climbing led me to remote parts of the world. I grew up in affluent Estes Park, Colorado, but climbing took me to places where people struggle just to get by. That led me to begin work with nonprofits, and eventually to launch my own nonprofit so that I can give back.

What favorite climbing gear do you have?

La Sportiva Miura VS climbing shoe for technical routes and La Sportiva Skwama climbing shoe for bouldering or steeper climbing.

I helped CAMP design the Supernova Harness, which is a lightweight sport climbing harness built for women. CAMP’s Photon quickdraws are my favorites because they are light, easy to pack when traveling or for carrying up a sport route.

The Maxim Airliner is a 9.1mm lightweight rope that is always my go-to for projecting and traveling.

What will the future bring?

I have plenty of unfinished projects I’d like to complete, as well as new routes around the world I want to try. I hope to continue growing as a climber, and also expand my nonprofit to reach more children. Our goal is to give children the education necessary to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. It’s a big undertaking, but I believe it is also the most important!

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